Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Crazy Idea

I have a crazy idea. Readers, as relatively sane people (for the most part), I am relying on you to tell me whether or not you think it is a good idea or a terrible one.

Immy is doing very well under saddle. With a good few more rides under her belt, I can safely say that she steers well, stops well, and responds to quiet, gentle aids well... her only real issue is that she really would rather be trotting at 9000000 miles an hour instead of walking. She does try to break to the trot a few times when she first starts out, which is the exact same thing she does when lunging or grounddriving, but that isn't surprising or concerning - when you tell her to slow it down, she does.
The big problem here? The bridle. While everything else has improved massively, bridling has only gotten worse. Once the headstall is on, she is fine, and she takes the bit no problem. But getting the headstall over her ears? She outright wiped out and got stuck upside down against a stall in the barn aisle the other day in an effort to get away from it when I was removing it. She is thankfully unhurt, and so am I, but it didn't help her fear. The dentist was supposed to come Monday for her teeth, but he was a no-show and is not returning our calls. The other dentist I wanted to use just left to go to Houston for 3 months, and won't be back until spring. Everybody else in the area does a hack job and will only make any problems sh has even worse. The craniosacral therapist is also going to come out as soon as she can, but she is in California for at least another week. There isn't a chiropractor in this area that I like or trust. I am feeling very stuck here.

I'm backing off the bridle for now... what we're doing isn't working, and we need to take a serious step back in order to work on her headshy issues. She is reluctantly letting me touch her poll and ears with my hand, but she does not like it and if I do so much as sneeze while I am working up there, she is gone. I worry that this is going to affect her work under saddle - if she starts to worry about saddling because she knows bridling is also going to take place, or if she goes into her riding work all freaked out because we've just been workin on bridling, that is going to be a disaster. It is time to shake things up a bit, and try something new while we separate the bridle/ears/headshy issue into its own exclusive category.

I had a crazy idea, after thinking about it for awhile. I want to continue to work with her under saddle and get her out into the world (on the trail, in other arenas, etc.), and I want to make it all a very positive experience for her. I want her to NOT ever see me coming and think, "oh crap here coms that lady who touches my ears every day!" and stop being catchable or stop enjoying her time with me. Yes, we have issues to work on with the bridle and her head, but I don't want that to be this huge hurdle we are fighting to get over while we wait around for saddle time, because that will just frustrate the both of us. And then it hit me - why don't I ride her in a rope halter?

English folks will think I am crazy, and I understand that because I used to have the same mindset (how can you control that horse without a bit?). Having seen lots of trainers down here starting their babies in rope halters, I have a new appreciation for it - it saves their mouths should they do any stupid baby antics like buck or run off, and it has plenty of whoa in it should you need to stop. You can't really do dressage in it (in the legal way, anyway - you need a bit to show), but you can teach them to be soft, responsive, and solid citizens. I do all my groundwork in a rope halter now, so she is very familiar with the idea of it. Why not? I will be able to get her out experiencing new things and enjoying her saddle time, and can work on her head and bridling and whatnot as a totally separate issue. That is assuredly going to take a long time... I had no idea how extensive it was until now. The girl is an emotional trainwreck about it, and it will be a long process until she isn't anymore.

I joked with Jen yesterday that with her love of trotting as fast as she can for as long as she can, I should make her into an endurance horse. That way, I could ride her in a rope halter, never have to clip her, and let her mane grow wild and free (she is not amused with my constant pulling, braiding, and taming).

It was meant as a joke, and obviously we can't just skip around issues like clippers and bridles. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to like the idea. Why not start her out as an endurance-type horse? And once she is through her other issues, then progress into the sport of our choosing? She'll have saddle time, experiencing on the trail, experiences with strangers and new places, and it will give us time to sort through her other fears and problems. And we'll both be doing something we love, which is the best part.

Why not? The more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Quick Picture!

I have been super mad crazy busy lately (I mean, REALLY REALLY busy!!), and I have lots of updates to share, but as for this moment in time I just wanted to leave everyone with a comparison picture of Immy on the lunge 2 months ago, and Immy on the lunge 2 days ago:

Not the same horse, is she! 

More later... now, off to feed the mares!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Zooms

Is it too early to say that I think Immy has caught a little bit of spring fever?

Yes, yes, I hear all of you Northern folk complaining about your wretched weather and subzero temps.... I'd like to point out that it was 75 degrees today with abundant sunshine and a light breeze, and not only did I spend most of the day in a t-shirt, but both mares also had baths and dried nicely out in the sunshine. 
Hey, I put up with the Great White North for the first 25 years of my life.... I feel perfectly entitled to rub our good winter weather in when we get it. After all, it DID snow here this winter, TWICE. Almost a whole inch... maybe even TWO whole inches. And it stayed. For a DAY. Quelle horreur! 

Immy standing out in the sunshine, soaking wet but starting to dry after her bath today (she was on her best behavior!):

Yes, they are all basically the same picture, but.... she is so stinking cute that I just couldn't help myself!
(And that giant badonky... she for sure has Arab in her, and the bigger that booty gets, the more certain I am that she has QH in her too!)

I also went back and compared all of her old pictures to her more recent pictures... it is SO interesting to see the changes in her demeanor now that she has a job, a new life, and no annoying colt to pester her. She looks like an old nag in some of my older pictures of her... she's so different now!

S also caught the girls playing today, which she says they do most every day... she got the last bit of Immy's bucks and leaps on video and sent it to me:

She has a bad case of The Zooms!!!!

Unfortunately for me, all of The Zooms she has had lately are not always confined to when she is in her paddock.... more on that shortly ;)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dressage Saddle!

First and foremost, I want to send my condolences to JenJ, who lost her beloved Saga on Tuesday. Jen has really become a good friend ever since I moved to Texas, and from lunches and horse shopping all the way to frantic phone calls ("is this an abscess?" "is this roundpenning thing a horrible idea?"), I can always count on her for advice, opinions, or a shoulder to wail on when things go horribly wrong. Take a minute to go read their story, and to send your own condolences to her too. 

On the same page, Wednesday was the 7-year anniversary of Metro's death. I've written a lot about him over the years; you can find some of it on the old Eventing-A-Gogo blog. It is amazing how things come full circle - how his only remaining daughter is now here with me, acting every bit like her father's child every day. They look SO much alike too... they have the exact same head! (Aside from her crazy facial markings, of course!)

Miss you, Cookieman. Miss you all the time, every day.


Onto some cheerier things! While I am still a bit worried about the state of Immy's hindgut (ordered some Equishure to try as per recommendation here, and thanks to everyone who gave suggestions!), everything else is progressing very smoothly. (Well, mostly.) We've had a bit of a strange week weather-wise - it actually SNOWED here on Tuesday! It was miserable, cold, blustery, and snowy all day long, so I called it a day early and stuffed some extra hay into their shed for good measure. We are now up to TWO WHOLE SNOWS for the season. That is two more than we had last year! Thankfully, this OUTRAGEOUS winter weather is probably completely over for the year, thank god. It was in the 60's today and will be in the 70's this weekend, which is more more reasonable for this time of year. At least all the grass is growing now that we've had some precipitation! 

Not sure how Immy felt about that, but P acted a bit like, "Oh thank god, the weather is FINALLY nice!" As evidenced by the snow on her blanket, she was more than happy to just stand out in it all day.

For Immy's fourth ride, I decided to switch over from the rope saddle to my dressage saddle - time to start learning to be a proper event pony! I had S hold her again while I mounted, and I am glad that I did - the difference between the fenders of the western saddle and the, well, nothingness of no fenders in a dressage saddle is a bit of a leap. Instead of a big piece of leather between my leg and her side, suddenly it was just my leg, and as expected it surprised her a bit! Thankfully, it didn't take more than a moment for her to settle in, and off we went to work on some more steering, stopping, and trotting!

I have some equitation issues I need to work on... badly. Yikes.

This picture makes me laugh - I was exaggerating my bad habit of doing puppy paws (AKA piano hands), and the super exaggerated movement got caught on camera. Rest assured, I do NOT usually ride like this.... although sometimes my mitts get the best of me!

She looks pretty stinking cute in dressage tack, does she not? She even offered to take a contact on several occasions at the walk, which is sort of what she is doing in that picture. 

Today, I kept things simple with a nice easy lunge and a good grooming session. I was able to pull the rest of her mane (YES!!), all except for one small area right behind her poll. I figured I had done quite enough, and left it at that. Someday, I will be able to give her a proper bridle path, and then we can REALLY do up her mane the way it should be... but that day is not today. As for now, I was most impressed that she stood still and allowed me to finish pulling, despite the fact that she was not very amused by it. She did her best to be a good girl!

Tomorrow, we ride again for the 5th time - and I may even ride in the even bigger paddock, so that we have a little more space to maneuver and work on steering. We shall see!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Third ride brings big things!

Immy's third ride brought some BIG and positive changes to her under-saddle life! I am so, so proud of her for being such a good girl today!

The day started off MISERABLY cold - 14 degrees when I fed everybody breakfast - and I was NOT keen to try anything that early in the morning. All my clients for the day rescheduled due to the weather, and so I spent most of my day trying to play catch-up on all the stuff I've been trying desperately to get done, but haven't been able to due to a lack of time. I actually had a super productive day, and at around 3 headed back to the barn to ride the girls. It had mercifully warmed up to a balmy 40 degrees (fml), but with the help of my trusty quarter sheet (and many, many layers for myself), I was ready for anything.

I had S hold her again while I mounted, and we started out in the same small holding pen outside of the barn as we did last time. The pen is actually a really ideal place for this sort of thing - she is closed in a small, square area, and has all of her friends right there with her (on the other side of the fence) for moral support. She is familiar with the area, and feels safe there. Today, for the first time, she didn't start and jump around when she felt my right leg touch her side as I was mounting. She started a bit when I first put my left foot in the stirrup to start, but settled in well. By the time I made my full mount, she was quiet and immobile. She stood still when I put my right foot in the stirrup too, no scooting! Awesome!

I had S let me go, and we went off in the pen to do some basic steering and whoas. She did so well that I asked S to let us into one of the pens next to the barn, so we could work in a bigger (but still enclosed) area. It is roughly the side of your average small arena, but still in a familiar area, so it was perfect. It really is amazing how NOT spooky she is - she has never seen that particular pen before, but she walked right in there like, oh, right, here we are, let's do this! 

Sweet little thing... she is SO TINY!

After some basic steering and whoas, I asked her for a trot. Word to the wise - if any of you ever meet Immy, don't ever cluck at her. I inadvertently taught her that clucking means trot-right-now-immediately-here-we-go. Same goes for the kissy noise... she canters the second she hears it! I will never, ever have problems with forward energy with this mare! 
She was a little surprised at first, and went into a zoomy trot, without steering or brakes. We managed to stop on the far end, and did some more walking. We attempted a few more trots, all with varying levels of zoomy, but it didn't take long for her to settle into a rhythm. By the end, we were trotting AND steering AND stopping, and only with a little bit of zoomy here and there. We made it almost all the way around the pen, quite a few times!

The video quality isn't great, but there you are! We did it!

At the walk, she had a few moments where she actually took a contact all by herself already, and stretched down to find it. It is time to put this girl in a dressage saddle, I say! (Also, I bet M would like her saddle back eventually!)

She was really quite good for the dismount too - she started a little, but didn't go anywhere, and afterwards tried to take the reins between her lips and play with them a little bit. She has this very shy, very gentle, very timid playful side to her that is just now starting to come out a little bit. It is so very sweet, so very shy, and so very heartwarming to see. I am not one to let my horses chew on things (EVER) as a rule, but to see her trying to play just a little bit with her reins today melted my heart. There is no way I'd discourage her newly emerging personality - unless, of course, she starts to actually chew on things. Then we'll have a discussion about it!

Out of all the lunging, grounddriving, groundwork, and other things that we have done, I really think she likes riding the best. She has been the quietest I've seen with ridden work, and had the happiest expression on her face when we were done. I know I'm waxing anthropomorphic here, but she really looked genuinely pleased with herself and proud when we were done. She just looked... different. Like she finally, finally felt confident in herself.

I rounded out the day with a nice long trail ride on P with S and her horse. The company was good, the horses were on their best behavior, and we froze our BUTTS off on the way back. The sun had started to go down at the halfway mark, and by the time we got back, temps had dropped almost into the 20's. We were FREEZING! I hate this weather, when is spring going to get here! Surely it can't be THAT far away!

As for other things, I had thought that the dentist was coming tomorrow, but we misunderstood him and I guess he is coming in a week or two. Bummer on that... the sooner he can get here, the better!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Second Ride!

Well, it took a few days, but the ground finally dried out enough for some real work - including our second ride!

Tuesday and Wednesday were a total wash. It rained all day Tuesday, and it continued all the way through Wednesday night. I had left a feed bucket hanging on the fence, and when I went to go peek in there to see how much rain had fallen, the bucket was filled to the TWO GALLON MARK. That's a sh*tload of rain, ya'll. Admittedly, since we have been in a prolonged drought, we did need it... but still.  Everything has been a right muddy mess ever since the rain stopped, the girls included.

Rain doesn't bother this yak... she stood out in it most of the day, on purpose!

Thursday was surprisingly warm and beautiful (upper 60's), so I let both girls be naked during the day, and found them to be completely encrusted in thick, chunky layers of mud, so I did my best to extricate them from the crustiness before their workout. It was mostly a large failure, seeing as Texas mud means serious business - once our "black gumbo" mud (greasy, waxy, sticky, evil mud made of Superglue and snot harvested directly from the nose of the Devil himself) sets up on fur, there is no amount of currying that will break it up and get it off. You literally have to wash it out, or else you will pull half of your horse's haircoat (and possibly some skin) out with it. I'm serious, it HURTS them to groom them when they are crusted with black gumbo! Growing up in the Great White North, I've dealt with lots and lots of mud... but there is nothing like black gumbo. It is a whole 'nother beast. 
Anyway. After I managed to rip half their hair out groom them as best I could, I tacked up P, and set out for a pony ride around the big pasture. Both girls had energy to burn - Immy pushed herself as far forward as her lead line would allow and tried to haul me along for the ride, and P shook her head and jigged sideways for the first 10 minutes of the ride. Once we warmed up, we trotted for 15 minutes, just to stretch all of our collective legs. P took a few off steps here and there, but for the most part she felt really quite good for how she has been. I'd say this level of work (light trail rides a few times a week) is more than reasonable for right now.

Honestly, I can't say enough about how much better Immy's attitude has been. She is a brand new horse at the new place - back to her old sweet, curious, cuddly self. She is putting on weight and muscle already, and everything from her attitude to her poos have improved. S, the barn owner (and my friend) is also going through some ulcer issues with her horse, so we're spending a lot of time coming up with ways to be proactive, brainstorming for other ideas, and sharing and swapping supplements and ideas. It has really been a lot of fun. 

After our successful pony on Thursday, it was high time (and dry enough, thank god) to get on Immy for her second ride!! I had S help me this time around, seeing as she scooted the first time when I mounted, and was glad that she was there - Immy was surprised again by my right leg, and scooted forward again. S led her around a few times, and then released us - Immy wanted to stay with her, but once she was on her own, she was fine to walk, whoa, and steer without assistance. I was even able to put my legs on her and start to use them along with the verbal command for "walk on." She was making some very smooth whoa and walk on transitions, which I was very proud of! Last time, she zoomed into all of her walk on transitions, and this time she was much quieter about it. Good girl!
Getting off went better this time as well - I had S come back and hold her again (after we had a whoa in the center of the pen, and stood there for awhile - standing still is a VERY vital lesson to learn!), and stayed right up against her and petted her as soon as I got down. She started a bit, but didn't go anywhere, and stood for some pets and cookies once I was down. She'll get it, it won't take long!

Yeck.... muddy, dirty, messy girl. She needs a bath!

Our bridling issues are the still same. Thankfully, the equine dentist comes on Monday, and shortly after that I am going to have some craniosacral work done on her. I think this will help her hugely, as opposed to trying a chiropractor... definitely excited to see what happens with both. (Maybe when she is knocked out for her teeth, I can finish pulling her mane and give her a bridlepath!)

Today, the temperature dropped from the 70's to the 30's during the day when a nasty cold front blew in, and by the time I was done with my clients and headed back to the barn to work the girls, a stiff and frigid wind was blowing. I tried to lunge Immy in the roundpen, but alas, the mud was still horrible in there, and she about wiped out at the gate on the very first lap. I called it quits for the day, and bundled the girls up in their winter blankies for the night. It is supposed to be in the teens tonight (!!!), so we will see if I am brave enough to get on a little zippy mare when it is howling wind and freezing cold! We might just go for another pony instead! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

At Mother Nature's Mercy

Aaah, on days like today, I long for the good old days. You know, the ones where no matter what facility you boarded at, no matter how expensive or cheap, you ALWAYS had an indoor? Boarding facilities that wanted to do any sort of regular year-long business in the Great White North had to have them - without an indoor, nobody can ride when it snows! And since it snows up there from October to April, well.... everybody had them! (Or well, all the placed I boarded at had them! Even the super cheap ones!) 

Not so here in Texas. In Texas, indoor arenas do not exist, except for the few rare ones at the super chintzy horse parks in the area. There are quite a number of covered arenas, that is true... but these are relatively rare, and exclusive. (And you have to trailer to them to use them.) It simply doesn't precipitate enough here to warrant building them for the most part. 95% of the time, this obviously isn't a problem. However, on occasions, we might have TWO WHOLE DAYS OF RAIN IN A ROW, rendering everything a completely useless muddy mess. An entire day's worth of a chilly, soaking rain makes for a very grumpy and miserably cold me, and there is little to nothing that I can do with the girls on a day like today. Sure, they could come in the barn for a grooming... but as soon as I manage to get most of the slimy mud off of them, they are going to go right back out and roll in it again! I don't miss having my horses in stalls... but I do miss them being clean on days like today. I miss being able to show up at the barn in a downpour and be able to walk into the nice dry aisleways, pull my horse out of their nice dry stall, and go ride in the nice dry indoor arena. Now that they live outside, and I don't have any place to play inside (barring the barn aisle)... days like today are a wash.

If it were this time next year, I quite imagine I would man up, put my rain slicker and waterproof quarter sheet on, and take Immy for a conditioning hack down the road in the drizzle. (I did this many a time with Gogo!) Obviously, we're quite a long way away from that still! I'm feeling exceptionally grumpy about not being able to get in more rides on her... it has been a mess of a week, and it is only getting muddier and messier.

As a general recap, even though I've touched on it in the last few posts: 
After our first ride last Sunday, I wanted to give her Monday and Tuesday off, and get back on her Wednesday. That all changed when she got scared half to death in the pasture by the other people at the facility, and I had trouble catching her for two days. The new plan was to catch her and love on her Wednesday (I couldn't even touch her on Tuesday), catch her and groom/lunge in a halter on Thursday, catch her and lunge/grounddrive with bridle and surcingle Friday, and get on her Saturday and Sunday. That all went according to plan, except for the fact that she had the Big Bolt accident to deal with on Thursday - I felt that a day off was warranted after being pushed to that limit and being able to come back appropriately from it. Sunday, of course, was the frantic last-second move from the old facility to the new one, and I also felt that it would be in all of our best interested to just get out smoothly, with as little stress as possible. That ride got nixed as well.
That brings us to yesterday. While both girls settled in very well, and went straight away to their hay munching, moving to a new place is definitely stressful, and I decided to lunge her first before seeing whether or not she could tolerate trying for her second ride on only their second day at the new place. Sure glad I did that - Immy and P were obnoxious for each other while Immy was in the barn, and a lot of wiggling/screaming/pooing ensured. The quality of her poos were pretty poor yesterday, but the mare are switching back over from the barfy coastal (who am I kidding, all coastal is barfy, what was I thinking with trying to put them on that garbage?) to the tim and orchard again, so that could be it. Or she could be burnt up with ulcers from the stress at the other facility... both are probably likely. 
I took Immy out to the roundpen to let her stretch her legs. She was full of the zooms, and it was NOT helped by the fact that P went absolutely bonkers when she saw her sister trotting around - she put on a show that would make any National Finals Rodeo horse jealous. Her bucks, squeals, leaps, and high-speed laps around the pen (which is within sight of the roundpen) had Immy on edge, but she held it together and listened to all my transition requests (even if I had to ask twice, or sometimes more than that for downwards transitions! What can I say, the mare has a lot of GO versus WHOA.) 

After our lunging session was over, I decided that it was in her best interested to NOT get on for a second ride. She was just a bit too up and fresh to really consider it. We did, however, decided to go play with some of the cavalletis that were laying around in the field - she walked over all of them like a champ! She even walked over three walk poles spaced together in a row, although she admittedly had to stop and look at them first. When she decided they were not of any concern, she walked smartly over them, lifting her legs like a little ballerina. That's my girl!

Of utmost concern to me right now is her belly. With a skittery, nervous personality like she has, it is safe to say that I will always be fighting The Good Fight against ulcers with this mare. It is probably best to just always assume that she has them, and to be constantly treating or supplementing proactively. If I don't do that, it is almost guaranteed that her GI system will be fried within no time. As I mentioned earlier, her poops were not so great yesterday - but then again, they are switching over to the other kind of hay, so this could also be a contributing factor. The other worrisome thing she did was this: the girls each get 1/2 a flake of alfalfa, now being added slowly back into their diet along with the tim and orchard. A bit of alfalfa is good for tummies - all that calcium acts as a good buffer! - and Immy realized I had tossed it out as she was about halfway done with her grain. She made a beeline over to it, and I caught her and tied her up so she could finish her grain (P will eat it if she doesn't!). Well, she had none of that - not when her tasty alfalfa was waiting. She wouldn't eat another bite. I did get her finish her breakfast at dinnertime though, which was good.
However, this morning she did the same thing - I markedly left the alfalfa out of the haypile so that she wouldn't be tempted to go searching for it while she had her grain in front of her, but she still only ate about 1/2 of her grain before stopping and refusing to eat another bite. She snuffled it around for awhile, but showed no interest in finishing. Possible scenario: the girls get alfalfa and timothy hay pellets as their "grain" (to mix their supplements with), but I was lucky enough to score some alfalfa/timothy mixed pellets made by the same company. (Which is nice... fewer bags, same thing!) That was the first morning the new hay pellets had been mixed in with the rest of her food... perhaps she didn't like them. Or, she was anticipating her alfalfa and wanted nothing to do with her yucky supplements. Or, she is burnt up with ulcers. 

It is hard to say. But as I said before, I'm just going to go with the idea that I need to be very proactive and keep supplementing and treating constantly for ulcers.

What I currently do for healthy tummy management for Imogen:
1) Live outside 24/7 with a shelter and a bestie (Pangea)
2) As much good-quality grass hay as I can possibly give (they do waste a fair bit of it... might look into building another slow feeder!)
3) Small amount of supplemental alfalfa twice a day (for buffering calcium)
4) NO hard grains, just alfalfa/tim hay pellets and Healthy Glo fat supplement to mix in with other supplements and herbs
5) High quality probiotic
6) Aloe juice with every meal
7) Slippery elm bark and marshmallow root with every meal (just started a few weeks ago, possibly has not taken effect yet)
8) Chamomile and SmartCalm - we'll see if they work or not, so far nothing!

Things I could do or look into:
1) Omeprazole, ranitidine, sucralfate, or the like - various hits and misses with these, they don't always work but sometimes they can be a miracle... but the ulcers almost always come back when you stop treatment UNLESS you supplement with other things, or change your horse's living/feeding arrangements. The main function of many of these drugs (not sucralfate) is to inhibit the proton pumps that excrete acid into the stomach. The problem with this? Horses need acid to digest their food! Improperly digested starches and sugars can make their way into the hindgut, which can lead to a whole 'nother barrel of apples: acidosis, hindgut ulceration, leaky gut syndrome (which can lead ultimately to laminitis!), and more. Yes, they do work, but you can end up healing stomach ulcers and creating colonic ulcers in the process! Better to try and work synergistically with the horse to make everything work harmoniously rather than throw a drug at it, in my humble opinion. 
2) Pumpkin seeds - full of nitric oxide. I hear great things about these!
3) Dried cabbage - sounds nasty but they are high in L-glutamine, which heals the lining of the stomach.
4) Papaya juice - I used Natural Plan Stomach Soother for my old greyhound and it worked great!
5) Before EVERY workout, give alfalfa and/or a few cups of hay pellets mixed with her slippery elm, marshmallow root, aloe, and any of the aforementioned things should I add them in... while she has hay in front of her all the time, I can't guarantee that she has been munching directly before I arrive.... she might be working on an empty belly, which is no good at all!
6) Oat flour - for more Betas Glucan and hindgut health (it is what make SUCCEED so good, but without the $$$$$$!)

Readers, what do YOU do for proactively keeping your ulcer-prone horse's hindgut healthy? Share away!

The girls not enjoying the rain:

Aaah, that's better!

And yes, I did go fix Immy's sliding blanket after I took the picture! ;)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Look at my horse, my horse is amazing!

My beloved Immy, while still occasionally jumpy and unpredictable, continues to show me every day how far she has really come. While I can't guarantee that things won't frighten or surprise her, even run of the mill things on occasion, I can definitely say that she really tries to figure out the right thing when something is complicated, instead of just throwing in the towel and shutting down (like she used to). On Friday, she truly showed her mettle even in the face of adversity - and much to my delight, overcame a very scary situation with relative ease. 

Things started out run of the mill on Friday. Immy was easily caught in the field (hooray for being back to normal!), tolerated more mane pulling (like a champ! Although it helps when you continually shove cookies into her mouth!), and was extraordinary good about bridling (for her). I opted to try while she was crosstied in the closed-in washstall, so she was secured and also had nowhere to back up. Normally, I do not EVER try to do something difficult when the horse is tied or crosstied, just in case something terrible happens and they set back or get tangled, but I decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise, while she raised her head and rolled her eye a bit, she stood still and allowed me to touch and pet her head, and put the headstall on without further issues. She took her cookie with an air of, "well, I suppose that wasn't so bad." I think that it will just take time, just like with everything else. The more times I handle her head and bridle her, the more she will realize that she has neither died nor been clubbed over the head in the process. It will become run of the mill, like blanketing and haltering. (The sight of a halter or blanket used to send her into a panic!)

I think she's about ready for a noseband, too!

Following her grooming session, I took her into the arena for some more lunging and grounddriving. This was a big step, seeing as I have only driven her while in the roundpen, which is obviously a much smaller area. She has done very well with it, so I decided it was high time to start working in a larger area. Little did I know it, but I was in for a big surprise!

It started off fine, with her lunging in both directions like a champ. She has given up the pulling, thank god, and now stays nicely with light tension on the line the entire time. We finished with a nice whoa, and hooked up the lines for grounddriving. It started off relatively innocuous, for the first 5 seconds or so... and then a truck unloading hay backfired right next to the arena. She spooked, spun around in shock, and found herself facing me with pressure on her mouth. I tried to quiet her and move towards her, but she had absolutely none of that, and threw it into reverse. Backing turned into scooting sideways, which turned into trotting, which turned into an outright bolt. I'm not He-man, and running behind her trying to stop her is most certainly terrifying (and totally impossible to boot), so I did the only thing I could do - I let go. She zoomed to the far end of the arena, rounded the corner, and came back up the long side, where she came to a stop and stared at me from a distance. "You are a silly girl," I told her as I approached. She continued to stand and look at me, a little unsure but unmoving. I caught her, loved on her for a minute, and rearranged my lines. "Walk on," I told her. She did. A minute up the way, at the same spot she had spooked in before, she started to jig forward. This time, I gave her the whoa command, and she stopped dead and turned her head to look at me while I praised her. She went on to have a great session, with calm walk-ons and whoas, and lots of steering in both directions.

I consider this session to be a huge success. Yes, it started out not so great, but the fact that she not only was able to be caught after she had been scared so badly, but was able to put her fear aside and get back to doing her work, means far more to me than what happened in the beginning. It also makes me very happy that I have this mare, and not someone else - someone else might have caught and punished her for her "naughty" behavior to start. I cringe even thinking about it. 

Yesterday was supposed to be her second ride (and today her third), but considering that she had been pushed to the limit on Thursday and that she had responded beautifully, I decided to back off and give her a day to just relax. This is not a mare that can be pushed and pushed - she works best when she is pushed, then the pressure is taken off for a day. She is not game for continual challenges. Maybe someday she will get to the point of having the mental mettle to deal with it, but for now, there is no need to overly stress her. Slow and steady wins the race... if you do anything wrong at this stage, they don't forget it, so it is better to just take your time and go as they are ready. This horse of all horses is NOT going to be the one that goes from zero to w-t-c broke in 30 days. As they say, "take the time it takes so it takes less time!" - erasing a bad experience takes five times as long as it does to give them a slow and good experience in the first place, if not longer. 

We had another big change today - we moved barns. I didn't speak about it before, but ever since the failed roundpenning attempt, there has been awkwardness and some bad blood at the barn. Immy was tagged as a nuisance following this, and was blamed for a few incidents that she had little or nothing to do with. (A gelding chased a filly into a fence repeatedly, and Immy was blamed for it, because supposedly the gelding fell in love with her? The girl that witnessed it said that my mares were getting chased by the gelding too, but the next day I was told that it was Imogen's fault. I don't know. One of a few incidents.) Being at the barn was stressful and awkward, and we all were getting increasingly unhappy. Immy's interaction with the other people at the barn was sending her into an emotional tailspin. I had already been considering hightailing it out of there when the BO texted me and said that she needed to downsize on her boarders due to unforseen circumstances, and wanted to give them all a head's up. I volunteered straight up to leave as soon as I could, and frankly I couldn't wait to get out of there. It is a risk you take when you move to a new barn - no matter how pretty the facilities are, you just never know what kind of a situation it is going to end up being. I feel relieved to be out... very, very relieved. It wasn't worth the stress. 
The girls are now in a situation that had been offered to me long ago, but I never took until now. They have a big paddock (with an awesome shed) all to themselves, and have all the high quality tim/orchard they could possibly want. Best of all, they both stay for free so long as I help feed the other two horses on the property!   

Girls dressed and ready to leave the other facility and head to their new home:

They look so snazzy in Gogo's light blue stuff! Quincy's things were all red, and Metro's things were all purple, but light blue is my choice from Gogo on!


I haven't posted it yet, but I have a few yearly goals made up for Imogen! These are more or less set in stone, except for when they aren't. Especially with a horse like Immy, her state of mental being will dictate where we are in terms of goal completion more than anything. If something is going to be too much for her, we will work on it in stages, but we're not pushing for anything. We have time, and we'll get there.

2013 Goals:
1) Make bridling a total non-event!
2) Be able to body clip by next winter - including bridle path and face!
3) Be going W-T-C decently by the end of Feburary
4) Be jumping small things by June
5) Be able to attend an event (schooling) by the end of December

I think it is lofty, but doable. By going W-T-C, I don't mean able to jump out and go do a great dressage test, I mean going comfortably and confidently with rhythm relaxation at all three gaits. I think, with that in place, it will be perfectly doable to be jumping little bitty bits by June. The big goal is to be able to attend a schooling show by the end of the year - and there are loads of schooling shows in the area to choose from! Again, as always, this is going to be dictated by her more than anything - if she isn't ready for something, she won't be pushed. So long as we are making forward progress, I will be happy no matter what.

January Goals:
1) Be going W-T (and maybe try a little C?) by the end of the month, in the roundpen (maybe try a little in the arena, depending on how she does)
2) More desensitization with the clippers!
3) Have dentistry done
4) Pull entire mane
5) Continue with the theme of relaxation - in everything we do!

There are also a few cavalletti at the new place... I think it is about time to start using them!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Interference of the Bad Kind

Well! We've had an interesting (and not in the good way) few days. As a preface, everything seems to be back to normal... I hope!

As you know, I rode Imogen for the first time on Sunday, and it was fantastic. I gave her Monday off, and all  I did with both girls was to let them out of their runs at the end of the day (they had been up because of the rain). Nothing out of the ordinary happened... all was well. The next day, Tuesday, I had plans to pull the girls up and give them a good grooming, and give Immy a second day off. Both girls were standing near the gate when I arrived, waiting. Much to my surprise, when I went to go catch her and bring her in, she raised her head in alarm and moved away from me, turning on one heel and bolting off. Uh.... okay.... not normal. She wouldn't even come near me after that. I never ended up catching her at all. P came up and had dinner, then went back out again and left. Immy kept coming to the gate, but any time I walked towards the gate myself, she took off again. Eventually, I just gave up and went home, leaving her standing by herself at the gate. She was still there when I drove away, waiting for me to catch her but not wanting to be caught all the same.

Okay... what was going on?

The next day I arrived at around the same time, and both girls as usual came to the gate when they heard people arriving. Another boarder had arrived at the same time as I did, and she went into the pasture to bring her horses in first. Both P and Immy were at the gate when I arrived, but when I went out to catch them, they were gone. P came back within short order, but when I went to catch her, she too threw her head up and backed away, like she was afraid of being struck or chased. P is never, EVER, hard to catch. "Did you shoo them away from the gate?" I asked the other boarder. She replied that yes, she had chased them off to get her horses in. My heart sank as I spotted Immy down the hill, standing still and watching me with an eagle eye. The moment I turned to face her, she galloped in the other direction.

I understand now. She is getting aggressively chased away whenever anyone goes out to catch their horses... that terrifies her. Absolutely terrifies. I had no idea if I was going to be able to catch her... she wouldn't let me within 30 feet of her without galloping away. 

I enticed the yearling in the pasture over with a bunch of cookies in my pocket. It didn't take long before Immy's curiosity got the best of her, and she too came over and got a cookie from me. I stroked her cheeks for a minute, and then moved to touch her neck with my hand. Just the motion of raising it made her recoil in fear, and she bolted. (The "shooing" motion that scares her so much.) I couldn't get near her again, and night had completely fallen by this time. Over a half hour into it, I was nowhere near catching her.

I needed to get her to switch from right brain to left brain, and walking her down was never going to work. 
It was time for Plan B. I poured a whole bunch of cookies into a bucket, took it out into the field, and shoot vigorously. Hey, I'm not above bribery when I need it.

It worked like a charm. Immy and the filly came over, and after some nervous snorting, they both stuck their noses in the bucket started to snack away. I was able to reach up and pet Immy on the neck, and she no longer flinched away. I had a rope around her neck within short order, and was able to put her halter on with absolutely no fuss at all. She gave me her best Joyful Cookie Face, and I brought her up for dinner. She was a changed woman - all over me, cuddling up to me, happy to be in my presence and happy to be touched and loved on. 

Well... I guess we know the problem now. We can't have this happening though. She is nowhere near ready to have interactions with strangers, much less negative interactions. 

I formulated a new plan for the week: 
Wednesday: Just be able to catch her and love on her (SUCCESS!)
Thursday: Groom, love on, low-key lunging without bridle (SUCCESS!)
Friday: Lunging/Grounddriving with bridle
Saturday: Ride
Sunday: Ride

As per my schedule, I caught Immy, gave her a thorough grooming (including a leg wash), and lunged her in just a halter in the big arena. I wanted to keep everything low-key and stress-free, and was very successful in that pursuit. She was happy, relaxed, and peaceful in the crossties, happy to have her grooming and eat her cookies. She lunged like a perfect angel. To top it all off, she let me PULL HER MANE!! Or well, part of it... but it is DEFINITELY a start! It wasn't that long ago where I couldn't even cut it with scissors without her completely losing her mind, so this is a HUGE step for us. I only did a small portion of her mane at the base of her neck, but everybody has to start somewhere. Amazingly, after some preliminary wiggles, she stopped moving and let me do it without fuss. I kept shoving cookies into her mouth every time she let me pull without moving, so she had some pretty good incentive to hold still. 

Not saying it for sure helped or did not help, but when I first crosstied her, I tried out my bottle of Soothe Me spray from Zephyr's Garden (I LOVE their products and can't say enough good things about them!). She was very, very peaceful... maybe it helped! I am trying out the Soothe Me, Calm Me, and Settle Me sprays... I firmly believe in their other products, and regularly recommend them to clients and friends alike, so I can't wait to see if this helps her too.

There is supposedly some wintery mix coming in tonight (maybe, possibly, no idea... Texas weathermen can NOT predict winter weather to save their lives!), so we'll see what we have to work with tomorrow!

AND! January Goals and 2013 Goals coming up soon! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Year In Review

Without further ado, here is Imogen's 2012 Year in Review! I can't believe I have been working with her for an entire year now! Added in are November and December from 2011 as well, when I first started to play with her!

November/December 2011:
I give the best synopsis of Imogen's history (then known simply as Bay Girl) that I can, and start to play with the then half-wild, uncatchable, terrified little mare in the last week of November. I am able to catch her (mostly), watch her freak out and need to be sedated for the farrier, and am able to crosstie and brush most of her body. I make plans for December, and am able to pick up all four feet without getting trampled or kicked. I manage to get a blanket on her, but have some trouble getting it off! I learned just how panicky she could be about having her face touched (and couldn't properly crosstie her or put a halter on her), but she became increasingly friendly and easy to catch, so we let her out into the mare field (she had been living in a small pen). And she was still catchable!

January 2012:
We make some goals for January, and tackled blanketing some more. I try and fail to get Bay Girl to take a cookie from me - she is convinced they are poison and wants nothing to do with them. I hatch a master plan on how to make deworming less of a nightmare, and am completely foiled by a clever little Mustang. By the end of the month, she takes a cookie from me after all!

February 2012:
I am told at the start of the month that Bay Girl will be leaving to go have her foal (due in March) at another facility and that she won't be back. I am absolutely heartbroken over this. I try to stay positive, focus on my incoming Pangea (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and have lots of fun when she arrives. Bay Girl leaves at the end of the month.... I say a miserable goodbye to her and fully expect to never see her again.

March 2012:
I get a text on my birthday that Bay Girl has had a colt! We share the same birthday, and all went well. Best birthday present ever! And I get even BETTER news at the end of the month - the two of them were COMING BACK to our facility!! I'd see my beautiful girl again after all!!

April 2012:
Mid-April, Bay Girl and her colt Elvis arrive back at our barn. Bay Girl is skinny but very slick and shiny in her new summer coat! I don't get to do much with her, given the fact that she now has a colt (who belongs to someone else) at foot, but I do manage to play with her a bit and get a flymask on her. Through a series of pulled strings, I managed to figure out the embryo transfer facility that Bay Girl belongs to, and make contact with them, FINALLY. They tell me all the mares are up for grabs for $1k, and I put it out on my blog to see if anyone would like to chip in for her. In just a few days, we have over $400, and the number grows every day!

May 2012:
I still can't do much with Bay Girl, given the Red Pest at her side (who is quickly turning into a large PITA), but deworming day comes and goes without fuss! She is now so catchable and friendly that I take a huge leap of faith and remove her catch halter - the first time it had been off in many, many, many months. I manage to convince her that other kinds of cookies aside from the ones she is used to are ok to eat, I muse on whether or not she is just a plain bay or actually a rabicano, and the donations reach $700!!

June 2012:
It's official, she is in fact a rabicano! There is a lot of speculation on whether or not her GIANT ENORMOUS BELLY has a secret baby in there... it is definitely a bit concerning! The Red Pest begins creep feeding, and I continue to play with Bay Girl whenever I can (hard with the colt hanging around causing trouble). To my complete amazement, donations reach $999 at the end of the month - WE DID IT! Now... WHEN would this become reality?
Looking back at the next picture and comparing it to now, I can't believe how much her body has changed!!

July 2012:
Elvis celebrates his 4-month birthday. I get a taste of how fragile our relationship is when I accidentally poke her in the eye with her flymask. (Thankfully this was shortlived.) The two of them temporarily get another mare and foal to hang out with, but only for a few weeks (and I laugh a lot at the size difference between Elvis and the other foal, who is only 2 weeks old - she can literally walk underneath him!) Other than that, I don't get to do much with her, much to my dismay. There literally isn't any way to work with her with the Red Pest around, other than to catch and groom her.

August 2012:
I continue to wonder whether or not she is pregnant - I don't think so, but her belly is definitely HUGE. I struggle to get ahold of the ET facility vet, but after much trying, I finally track the guy down and strike a verbal deal with him. Now all we need is for the foal to be weaned and for the lessee to return her to the ET facility! As luck would have it, weaning day arrived at the end of the month, and Bay Girl went back out into her old field with her old friends while the Red Pest stayed up in a front field with his babysitter. It was very low drama, although Bay Girl did not appreciate the way her new herdmates bullied her for a few days! I talk to the ET facility, and all they need is for the lessee to terminate the lease and to bring her back, and a check! The waiting game begins!

September 2012:
I figure out how to avoid the deworming issue. 9/11 come and goes, and I write about being an American. The lessee is completely AWOL, and Bay Girl is still at the main farm and not yet mine. I get tired of waiting, and decide to begin training her in earnest, starting with lunging loose in the roundpen. She is a quick study, and is doing walk-trot-whoa by the end of her first session, and walk-trot-canter-whoa by the end of her second. She even wears a saddle pad for the first time without fuss! She also gets a new name: Imogen!

October 2012:
Imogen has her first lunge lesson with an actual lunge line, and she nails it. She also wears a surcingle for the first time, and also nails it! (She also comes into flaming heat.... thankfully she is NOT pregnant!) The one-year anniversary of Gogo's death comes and goes, and I write about never being the same again. Imogen wears a bridle for the first time and does quite well, aside from an unsurprising amount of confused mouthiness! Putting the bridle on proves to be a problem, but wearing it is just fine. Despite the fact that Elvis was weaned two months prior, she is still at the main farm!

November 2012:
I FINALLY BUY IMOGEN! A few days later, I trailer her home, where she makes fast friends with Pangea. We lunge for the first time outside of a roundpen, and she does quite well! It takes a little while to transition her off of her sweet feed and oat diet to her new healthy diet (and who can blame her, why eat salad when you can eat candy?), but eventually she decides that it is tasty enough to snarf down with ease. She wears a saddle for the first time (!!!!), and we work on lunging in full tack, and wonder how to help her with her earshy problems. She also wears a big rope saddle, and doesn't care! I also teach her to pony off of Pangea, and she does wonderfully. We are well on our way to saddlebroke!

December 2012:
Imogen goes into the AquaTread for the first time, and does GREAT! She gets ponied out on the trail for the first time, and doesn't bat an eye at anything, not even when we have to walk over logs and go around the stock pond. We move facilities, and she absolutely loses her mind - she is anxious, hot, and very stressed right from the get-go. (But we do get some productive work in.) I let the barn owner roundpen her, and while it goes okay the first time, it is a complete disaster the second time. I abandon the idea, give her a week off, and have been at odds with the barn owner ever since. She loses weight very rapidly, and I cut back on her workload and up her feed. I attend an awesome large animal rescue class, and we ground drive for the first time - and she does great! Christmas comes and goes, and when I return we get back to lunging, ground driving.... and OUR FIRST RIDE. She does GREAT!!!

It is amazing to see where she has come from where she was. There is still a VERY long way to go, but the sky is the limit now. I believe in her, and I believe in us. We can do anything we set our minds to, so long as we have each other.

The past two days have been full of drama and bad things, but that is a story for tomorrow. For tonight, I choose to look back and remember... and look ahead and smile. 2013 goals coming soon!